- “We have had some challenging times not just within Concacaf, but globally
- “We have an opportunity as Concacaf to have six direct spots and two through the playoff, so we could have eight Concacaf teams in the World Cup
- “I think the SCCL is the next asset we are looking at to grow
MIAMI, Florida – On Tuesday, President of Concacaf and Vice-President of the FIFA Council, Victor Montagliani, was the key-note speaker at Soccerex in a Question and Answer session with Fox Sports Lead play-by-play Analyst John Strong. Montagliani discussed an array of topics concerning the Concacaf region, most notably how the Confederation has approached a return to competition and worked to support its Member Associations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have had some challenging times not just within Concacaf, but globally. A lot of it has been documented in terms of leagues that have been suspended and competitions that have been suspended. We’ve done a good job among confederations at the FIFA level with our relief plans, not just relief from a monetary standpoint, but also a statutory one in terms of helping out with contracts and things that needed to be done. Also, with the protocols put in place to get the game back up and running. You have seen the successes here in North America and the Concacaf region with leagues starting back up. I think the game is slowing coming back, maybe not as we would like it to be with fans and full stadiums, but football is a tough sport to keep down and it is slowly but surely coming back,” said Montagliani.
“I think a lot of the issues have been at the grassroots level with youth tournaments cancelled. Those are dreams of young people. I know that’s a tough thing, so it goes from grassroots to the Champions League level and it’s been impacted from all angles, but we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of bringing the game back,” added Montagliani.
Montagliani also talked about the challenges Concacaf and its 41 Member Associations are working through as they focus on re-starting football at both national team and club level.
“We are hoping to start World Cup qualifying next March. At the club level, we are hoping to start at the end of the year. It is challenging. Concacaf is challenging in the best of times with our travel and now with different requirements from each country. It’s not like other places in the world that are more homogenous in terms of governance, like Europe. Here, not only are there 41 different Member Associations, but 41 different governments. I think we have done a good job with our MAs in looking at what the protocols need to be in order for us to start our club competitions back up that require cross-border travel,” said Montagliani.
Montagliani also shared what has been the greatest lesson learned during the Covid pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, the focus was on our similarities and it showed just how interconnected we all are. Players are from all over the world, assets are from all over the world, so it doesn’t matter which confederation it is, you have to rely on other parts of the globe to run your business, whether it’s the players that come in to play in your leagues, the global sponsors, fans, media. The interconnectivity became heightened and that led to an unprecedented cooperation, whether it was calendars, contracts or the Covid relief plan. I hope that continues in the post-Covid era and we don’t go back to a zero-sum attitude,” said Montagliani.
With an expanded FIFA World Cup format set for the 2026 edition in the Concacaf region in the United States, Mexico and Canada, there is an opportunity for an unprecedented number of Concacaf teams to participate in the 2026 World Cup.
“We have an opportunity as Concacaf to have six direct spots and two through the playoff, so we could have eight Concacaf teams in the World Cup, so our goal is to have eight Concacaf teams in the World Cup. That’s a sign of all of the work that we have been doing, whether it’s the Nations League, the youth tournaments. That is the end goal, to have eight teams at the 2026 World Cup,” said Montagliani.
Montagliani also highlighted the great strides being made in women’s football in the Concacaf region and the ambition to continue its development.
“It’s a two-fold approach, through our women’s strategy led by Karina LeBlanc. First, it is to know what we have at the sharp edge of the game: The U.S are world champions, Canada is a medalist at the Olympics, there are countries who are investing in the game with leagues like Mexico and Costa Rica, Jamaica is a growing nation. But it’s also at the other end. From a development standpoint, we need to provide opportunity. As we move forward, we need to take care of the sharp edge but also really ensure that there is a plethora of young women having the opportunity to play the game as much as boys in countries where previously that was neglected,” said Montagliani.
Montagliani also addressed the status of the 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (SCCL), emphasizing that the tournament will conclude by the end of the year, with a centralized version among the possibilities. Montagliani also spoke to Concacaf’s vision of enhancing the SCCL in the years to come.
“I think the SCCL is the next asset we are looking at to grow. You see the growth of our two big leagues and in Central America, Canada has a new Premier League and now some nations in the Caribbean are looking to have a bigger version of professional football in some of their domestic leagues. That behooves us to grow the Champions League. If you compare it to other confederations, we don’t play the same amount of games, so it’s about more games more often and giving opportunities to clubs we all resonate with in our own domestic leagues to play at another level.
“I think it’s difficult for a league to be relevant if it does not have an international standard and I think that’s what the Concacaf Champions League provides. Our Champions League will grow and increase and will likely start post-2022 after the World Cup. We are already in contact with our stakeholders to ensure how that looks and we’re in a position to make an announcement sometime next year in regards to our new enhanced and robust Champions League for fans to see those rivalries more often,” concluded Montagliani.